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How to Set Goals You'll Actually Achieve

· Artist Services,Support Artists

The beginning of the year is magical. There’s the feeling of anticipation in the air. Everything is new and fresh. There’s the promise of your best year ever. And come February, that feeling will be long gone. Kidding! It’ll only be long gone if you don’t use this time to set goals for yourself.

More than 50% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February and only 8% of people will actually achieve them. I’m not trying to scare you, I’m trying to top-load this to tell you the importance of goal setting! You must plan out your year to set yourself up for success. It isn’t good enough to hope it’ll happen. You must commit and you must make a plan.

I’ve written about the importance of goal setting before, but this will walk you through specifically how to use this time to reflect and set goals you will actually do. I highly suggest using a real pen and paper for this reflection and goal setting. There’s something incredibly powerful and intuitive about writing it out. Grab some paper and let’s go!

Reflect, reflect, reflect.

First thing’s first: you can’t make progress on 2018 if you’re still carrying around negative juju from 2017 (or insert the appropriate years if you happen to be reading this in 2022). Let’s reflect on the past before we move forward.

Find what worked.

While it’s important to have goals, it’s also important to assess them later so you can make better goals next time around.

Take some time to reflect on the past year. Look at each project, gallery showing, and event you were a part of. What worked well? And what didn’t go to plan? Where is there room for improvement?

There’s no way you can set smart goals for yourself in the future if you don’t do this part.

Look for your vision.

We all have this desire to be a master in our craft and be so well known for that, our name is top of mind when someone says, “Who makes the ceramic mugs that look like dogs?” So what do you want to be known for? Write out your vision for the future. This is important because this will keep you going when you’re elbow-deep in clay and considering throwing it all away and getting a nice job at a bank like your parents wanted.

Also, take some time and think about the values you want to be known for. Your legacy is holistic and people will remember you for more than your amazing pottery. Consider what else you want to stand for. Having a set of values or feelings that guide every decision you make will help you gauge whether an opportunity is worth pursuing.

Keep your vision, or your Why, close at hand.

Assess where you need to improve.

Consider these different areas of business: time to create, print collateral, website and online marketing, outside events and showings, business relationships. On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about each piece? The pieces you gave a lower score to are the pieces you may want to consider focusing on in the coming year.

Set goals based on values listed.

Now that you’ve taken time to reflect on the past year and know your values and areas of improvement, it’s time to set some goals!

Look at your areas for improvement and write down the top three that you want to focus on this season. If you want to work on everything, just pick the three most important for where you are right now. You can always come back and add to it later, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Use this time to make deliberate progress, not try to throw the kitchen sink at yourself (no wonder most resolutions fail - we try to do too much at once!)

You’ve heard it before, good goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. I’d like to introduce you to another level of goal setting: categorizing them based on project goals and maintenance goals.

Project goals are goals that you can move and make progress on. They lend themselves to the idea of making SMART goals because they typically have a start and end date, or some way for your to say, “Yep, that’s done!”

Maintenance goals are more subjective things that are similar to changing a lifestyle or keeping certain habits and lifestyles already in place. While the goal itself may not have a set end date or be measurable, you can break the goal into smaller action steps to help you achieve it.

Sometimes you just want to have the goal of “Make time to create more!” That’s fine; however, this is a goal that’s a maintenance goal and it needs weekly, if not daily, attention, so try as much as possible to set project goals instead of maintenance goals.

Look at your values and areas of attention you want to focus on this season and write down your goals. Try to also include why it’s important for you to set this goal. It’s easier to take action when you have a specific reason for it.

Break down your goals into actions.

Now that you have you list of goals, it’s time to take action. In other words, what will you do to make these goals happen? For each goal, write down three things you can do to start making progress. It doesn’t matter how small these steps are, the point here is to break your goals into actions you can take to get the ball rolling.

This piece is especially important when you’re working with a maintenance goal. You need to have specific tasks to act on or that goal of “Make time to create” will be a dream and not something you do.

Pull out your calendar and set deadlines or mark when this action needs to take place. If a goal this year is “To have more shows,” what are three things to take action on right now? One is probably to find shows within the city. Another may be to write an artist statement. One definitely should be apply to the show.

If you can’t apply before you have an artist statement, note by when you need to have your statement written to allow yourself time for the application process. Then either sit down and write or hire someone to do it for you so you know it’ll get done.

Some people also find it helpful to map out the year on a piece of paper or two so you get a year-at-a-glance look at when you need to do something. Art Basel 2018 isn’t until December, but you don’t want to let the little things fall through the cracks until you’re right up against the deadline. Having the year mapped out with tasks listed per month will help you stay on track.

Later: assess your progress.

Make some time at the end of each month to assess where you are in relation to hitting your goals. Pivot where you need to. Should it turn out that in June, one of your goals doesn’t resonate anymore, switch it up for something that does so you’re not just chipping away at something that you don’t care about.

Also, do a quarterly, or seasonal, check in with yourself. If you feel satisfied with the progress you’ve made in an area of your business, add in another area or more goals to this one. Now is the time to do it when actions have turned into habits and you can add more in without getting overwhelmed and giving up on the whole thing.

Go forth and be awesome!

Goal setting isn’t something you do once and never think about again. If you want to achieve your goals and make progress, you have to take daily action. With a plan in place, success is way more likely.

And if you need someone to hold you accountable or check in to make sure you’re actually doing something (hell, even help setting realistic goals that feel good and you can make progress on), send us an email!

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